Cubs Shake Their Bote to Victory at HoHoKam
David Bote reached base four times on two RBI doubles, a single, and a walk, and Shawon Dunston Jr tripled, singled, scored two runs, and drove-in another, leading the AZL Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the AZL Dodgers in Arizona League action tonight at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.
Cubs 1st round draft pick Albert Almora and Cuban mega-defector Jorge Soler went a combined 1-8, although Almora did collect an RBI on a ground ball single that ticked-off the glove of the shortstop.
Soler struck out twice (once swinging and once looking), and flied out twice.
The Dodgers have a high-profile Cuban defector playing for their AZL team, too, one Yasiel Puig.
Puig played RF tonight and reached base three times (two singles and a walk), but he also dropped a routine fly ball for a two-base error that allowed Almora to reach 2nd base safely in the bottom of the 1st.
Puig is hitting a rather robust 407/500/1.000 and is already tied for 9th in the AZL in HR (with four), despite having played in only eight games.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was at tonight's game, and so he got a chance to watch his $42M investment up close & personal.
RHP Paul Blackburn (Cubs 2012 Supplemental 1st round pick) got the start for the Cubs and labored through a two-inning 40-pitch outing, allowing two runs (both unearned) on four hits (all four singles) and a walk, with two strikeouts.
The most-impressive performance by a Cub pitcher tonight was the one turned-in by 20-year old RHP Dillon Maples, who (finally) displayed the velocity and command not seen previously, including three outings at AZ Instructs last fall (4.91 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, .231 OppBA, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP), or over the course of his two previous appearances in the AZL this season (3.38 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, .111 OppBA, 2.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 2 HBP, 2 WP).
But he was much better tonight, throwing two shutout innings (31 pitches - 20 strikes), allowing two singles and a HBP, while striking out three (two swinging). The big difference tonight was that he threw strikes (especially "strike one") and worked fast.
When he's right, Maples throws a 93 MPH fastball (with movement) and a hard-breaking nearly-unhittable curve, and he displayed both pitches tonight. If he can command his electric stuff (as he did tonight) and maybe develop a change-up, he could be a potential MLB "Top-of-the-Rotation" guy down the road.
Maples was a 14th round draft pick of the Cubs in June 2011 out of Pinecrest HS in Southern Pines, NC (he dropped to the 14th round only because of "signability" concerns), and he was signed by the Cubs right off the campus of the University of North Carolina last August (a top-notch place-kicker, Maples had signed an NLI with UNC to play both baseball and football, and he was attending the Tar Heels pre-season football camp when he made his decision to turn pro and sign with the Cubs).
The ace of the Under-18 Team USA squad while in HS, Maples received a $2.5M signing bonus (equivalent to "1st round money") from the Cubs.
After being shut-down with a sore arm midway through Instructs last year and not pitching at Minor League Camp or at Extended Spring Training this season while dealing with elbow/forearm issues, Maples finally appears to be moving forward.
The Defensive Gem of the Game was the very last play of the game.
With the Cubs up 5-2 with one out in the top of the 9th and with Dodger runners at 2nd and 3rd and the tying run at the plate, CF Albert Almora made a brilliant Willie Mays style catch, racing full-speed with his back to the infield and catching a towering fly ball basket-style just as he hit the CF Batter's Eye, before turning around 180 degrees and (without having time to measure the throw) firing a strike to 2nd base that doubled Alex Santana off base for the final out of the game.
A truly amazing play by the Cubs 2012 #1 draft pick.
There also was another roster gaffe by an AZL manager in tonight's game, this time by Cubs manager Bobby Mitchell.
Each AZL team has a 35-man roster, but only 30 players can be designated "active" for each game.
Unfortunately, one of the five AZL Cubs "inactive" guys (RHP Daniel Adrian) was brought into the game in the top of the 3rd, only to be waived off the field by the home plate umpire after he finished his warm-up tosses.
After a discussion around home plate between the umpires and the two managers, RHP Chad Martin was hurriedly brought into the game.
To his credit, AZL Dodgers manager Matt Martin agreed to let Chad Martin have as much time as he needed to get loose. The rival manager was within his rights to insist that the new pitcher be allowed just the maximum eight warm-up tosses, but I could hear him say that he didn't want anybody to get hurt just because of a technicality.